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The High Country

A Summer Stone just crawled over my bare foot. It’s just after 11 PM and the stoneflies are hatching on the St. Joe. I flip on my headlamp and see several crawling around the bank and flying into the trees. I can hear bats chirping and eating. We are 77 miles up the St. Joe River in North Idaho.

I have not fished up this high. The river is simply beautiful. The kind of river I’ve had dreams about and only thought existed in my mind. The fish are plentiful and come in all shapes and sizes. Big ones…oh yes. Very big. Lots of little ones. Yep. Cookie cutters galore…fosho.

In 4 hours and 2 miles I landed over 30 missed another 30 and hooked into and lost 4 very very large cutties on the streamer. Dry fly fishing is spectacular. The river is cold…and it holds its temp throughout the day. The fish have a rhythm. They move about frequently. Fish you hooked an hour ago, have moved up or down and maybe 3 miles away by next week. Cutthroat move, and with a range like this with so many tribs…these fish can move like they were meant to. Cutties like high grade, higher elevation water. When it gets hot fish always seek out the cooler water. They use thier speed, range, and camouflage to survive. Westslope cutthroat blend right in. For such a colorful fish, they have the ability to disappear against the river bottom and the broken up currents. They are amazing, using thier camouflage to tuck in, rest, then move, feed, move, tuck in rest, move feed, up and down and up and down the river system. Sometimes 100 plus miles a year. Hundreds of miles over their life span. Truly amazing critters.

Up here, way the fuck up here, is where some of the oldest, most gnarliest of clarkii-iest of westslope cutthroat reside. Ranging high into the back country to spawn and moving about the high country ranges throughout the year. I saw a few today. Flashing bright aged colors at me with a streamer lodged in thier lip. They all bested me with aggressive headshakes. I’m very out of practice. Having only touched a fly rod to teach and rig up, not to fish with for several weeks now. Tomorrow will be better.

There are also bull trout up here. I am cautiously optimistic that I will meet one over the next few days. Having finally made it up here, and knowing a little about bulltrout…this place may have a few willing to test my angling abilities. Rarely do I feel the absolute need to fish…but seeing this place up here…ya…I could spend the rest of my life here and it be a happy and fulfilling one…

Tamarack

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Thoughts upon return after a hard run.

I’m back on the homewater. It feels like we’ve only seen each other in passing lately. My heart fluttered a little when I saw Castle Rock on the Bristol to Greenbridge Section. The Yakima will always be my favorite river. From the challenges it faces, the trout it holds, and the community it supports, the Yakima will always be my one true river so to speak.

I’ve spent thousands of hours over the last decade on the Yakima. I’ve been tested, beaten, and amazingly successful tricking the wild trout that lie within. Thousands of fish I’ve met, generations I’ve seen, I’ve even saved a few, lost a few, and spent many minutes in the embrace of truly wild and beautiful creatures. I care about them. It sounds weird but after all this time and with what I was taught about being a guide, I have this feeling of responsibility to the Yakima. I owe her that. A river steward. I know I’m not the only one. From guides, to anglers, to rafting guides, tubers, homeowners, landowners, farmers, busiessowners and every member of the community and the angling community are connected to this river in some way. It behooves a select few of us to take on some of those responsibilities. When I come back to the Yak, I’m reminded of that as I drive from one end to the other and see what life this river brings and what more we can to do keep her healthy. We’ve messed up this planet a lot, it’s time to start coming together and recognizing that these places need us and we are responsible for their well being. Taking care of them is taking care of us.

Keep that in mind when you’re riverside. Have an open mind about the world, listen, critically think, and remember these places are for everyone to enjoy and all deserve respect and courtesy when enjoying the rivers and public lands we hold so dear.

Tamarack.

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Trout Season

Fishing has been stellar. Landing fish always has room for improvement. This year I’ve worked a good chunk. Not my busiest season, not the slowest, and the fall is still to come.

I’m currently on a rougher week and a half of work where I’m bouncing back and forth between the Joe and the Yak. A 280 mile trek one way. Like 4 hrs cuz I drive 60 with the boat. I also just dont drive fast. Everyone is a fucken hurry these days and I dont understand it.

I’ve run 1500 road miles on freeways, back dirt roads, washboard and potholed to hell, down steep rock filled embankments, and put over 50 miles of rowing in there as well. I think I’ve slept a total of 25-30 hrs in the last 5-6 days. My body is racked, my mind is mush, my patience is waning, and my sassy-ness riverside is coming out.

I want more. A day of downtime is needed, and there are always shenanigans, issues, and frustrations that arise with this gig. There is always stress and frustration when working for others too. Something I haven’t had to factor into my guiding for a few seasons as I have been running my own gig.

I’m a very trouty person. The more I guide, fish, and meet, and work with others in this community and industry the more I realize that all the time, passion, and energy I have put into learning and advancing as an angler have paid off. My experience over the past 5 seasons also shows the more I do this. I will be honest…it feels good…to know that I’m really good at my job. The successes and memorable moments are so numerous it’s a blur of awesome. I’ve reached that groovy mode of everything else fading away and I’m just guiding. Sure theres all the stuff off river that comes up… but when I sit in that boat, grab those oars, and feel that river under me as I glide my boat through its currents….its all just faint background noise. Just get me in the boat and let me do my thang. The money will come in, the clients always seem to keep coming back for more. Just get me and my boat in the river and the rest takes care of itself.

The haters are quiet, or I’m too busy and having too much fun to notice. I swing back to the Yak, run it like I always do, it gives me what I expect consistenly… even on the tougher days. It’s just groovy.

The Joe is different, harder, more rugged, hard on gear, and me, the boat. But those fish, and that water…fuck its decent. I may not guide it for long. This career will take me to lots of different places and I enjoy the nomad river lifestyle. Where there is fish to be tricked with a fly, and clients that want to experience them…I will ramble to it.

With every new river, species, or place and people, there are challenges, pains, stresses, and there are amazing moments, incredible people, and beautiful fish that connect us all through a fly and a rod. At the end of the day…I just wanna be riverside tricking trout with anglers and flies. All the other stuff just seems to get in the way.

I like things smooth, efficient, and quick. More time for fishing that way. I’ve built a very well functioning business with the Yakima. It takes care of itself for the most part. I put hours in and trips get booked. Managing my business while also working for another has been a challenge. Definitely made me better, also making me smarter. Always learning and adapting, fine tuning. This gig in all aspects is 80% people, whether its clients, co workers, bosses, fellow river guides, or social media….its a lot of people with some fish peppered in. Sometimes I dont do people well. Those are the days when you dont see a photo post or a live stream. Days where I’m lost in a current somewhere. I’m due up for a few of those kinda days.

Most days I just wanna take people fishing. Getting paid for it is a bonus and a necessity with my family…but I just wanna take people fishing really. I’ve fished a lot, and there are times that fishing strikes my fancy. But it doesn’t present the same kind of challenge that guiding or taking others fishing does.

With 90 days or so left of the trout season. I just wanna take more people fishing. Wherever that may be. I don’t wanna sit still, or have a lot of down time, thats what the winter is for. It’s called trout season for a reason. Its seasonal. So get after it while its here.

I’m ready for the fall. With the summer just past halfway I’m ready for the chill riverside life of the autumn. I also prefer the fishing in the fall. The summer in August is always a crapshoot and even though it’s called trout season sometimes trout need a break. With water temps starting to creep closer to 65 I’m just not interested in pressuring trout. With both rivers I work on facing warm water temps this season I’ll be switching to bass and muskie for a few weeks. Let the fish chill so they are ready and healthy for the fall. Go fuck with some, bass, muskie, and carp while it’s hot. Get your redneck on, and catch some different fish. It’s time to do more of that and put anglers and clients onto warmwater species when trout need less pressure. So we adapt just like the trout.

So I will see ya out there…

Tamarack

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Rambling Notes

I’m in the thick of it now. Around 80 guide days done. More on the schedule and still days to book. Since May the fishing has been stellar on the Yakima. The guide season has been more than I could have planned for. With two rivers and my skills tested, my mind challenged as well as my patience, and some amazing fishing and people to share it all with.

Its busy. So busy I’m turning down trips this season because I’m full. The late season is filling up sooner and faster than I anticipated. Thankful is the word that comes to mind.

It’s a ramble. I got done with three intense days on the St. Joe. Intense fishing, rowing, and clients. I wont get into the clients. At the end of the day you give every client the best experience you know how, and you put them on fish. There is no shortage of good times or fish in my boat.

The Joe is a neat place. Never have I had to read water 80 yards down river, while setting up anglers on the water to fish, while also prepping myself, the boat, and them for the water coming up. Constant real time reading and guiding. The Joe is new to me, I dont know it from memory like all 75 miles of the Yakima. I can recall almost every boulder, log, drop off, turn, seam, every fishy spot, at every possible flows and what food sources are there, how the fish relate to them, and how to drift a fly to them. I know the Yakima. But the Joe, mmmm that shit is fresh. Like a new ski line in fresh pow. This place is a constant test and challenge and I welcome it.

I test myself on the Yak constantly. Today I ran a 4 hr half day float over 8 miles of river, with multiple other boats, and we produced lots of trout on a single dry fly pattern. I hit the water where I knew the fish would eat that type of fly and drift and we just fished that water hard for the drift and did really well. I only stopped the boat once to take a break and to fix knots a few times. I rarely do the run and gun style trip, but when I do I like to test myself that I can still produce fish that way on a tougher fishery. It doesnt always work the way I like but years of watching conditions and really dialing in a fishery makes me confident that we can put ourselves into it and hit the take out with a successful fish filled day.

The Joe is the opposite. Not knowing what is around the bend, how the fish are holding, or moving, and to present the fly whether it be nymph dry or streamer. There is nothing better to test ones guide skills than by doing it cold and new water with new clients. There is something really intoxicating about it and I’ve never had the desire and push for that challenge like I do here on the Joe.

It’s making me a better angler and guide. I can feel it, and so can my clients. Always improving and evaluated, fine tuning and adapting. Like the trout I chase.

I cant sit still and with a hard summer headed to the Yakima and the Joe giving me some days I’m still wanting more. Even though I’m exhausted I want more. I’ll be back on the Yak in August it’s looking like. Gonna run that lower river for smallies. Hit the basin for bass and musky. I’ll be posting dates and availability for chasin other fish with a fly. With trout days filling the layers season I dont wanna stop like I have the past few Augusts. So I’m gonna chase more fish and more guide days anywhere I can. I want days on the water with clients making money and memories. Challenge and test myself more. And put anglers on more and different fish and share that experience with them.

There are only 3 months of trout season left. I wanna guide and fish every single one of them before I hibernate for the winter with my family. I’m here to guide and fish.

The days bleed together, the trips and clients are a blur of fish and smiles, and the boat and I couldn’t be happier to be rambling and rolling down rivers and lakes chasin trout and fish living that fly angler guide life.

See ya riverside anglers.

Tamarack

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Last Summer Yak Dates Open

Hey Anglers,

I’ve only got 4 open spots before I leave for North Idaho for the remainder of the summer.

July 25th 26th 30th and 31st.

I’ll be on the St. Joe River in Idaho for the rest of the summer season. You can reserve a day with me on the Joe through White Pine Outfitters in Moscow ID.

I will be back on the Yakima after Labor Day Weekend and am already filling in late season fishing dates.

Hope to see ya riverside anglers!

Tamarack

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Summer

It’s the busy season. Trips are rolling and I’m back to snorkeling and fishing in between. The Yak in the summer is a happening place. Its busy riverside. Not so much anglers but all the other river users are out. Rafters, tubers, kayakers, paddle boarders, all hanging out riverside.

The fishing is good. Pretty normal for summer. The fishing in the Yak in the summer is a whole different ball game. The river is 3 times its normal size. She is running at 3200 cfs. Below average for this time of year but not by much. With the dams running conservatively during the drought year we have a little less than we typically do. Later this summer is when potential warm water and low flows will be an issue. But right now the water is cold, fast, and fish are happy and healthy.

Experiencing the Yakima in the summer can be overwhelming. It’s big and can be hard to read. There is a lot of water and the fish spread out all over in the upper river. We dry fly fish almost exclusively in the summer. Nymphing and streamer fishing are in select areas. The rest of the time we are targeting trout in areas where they will opportunistically eat on food that passes by. This can be terrestrial insects, stoneflies, caddis, and spent mayflies. What it boils down to a lot of the time is slinging a single dry into tight short drifts 3-6 times to get a fish to rise. Its quick, dirty, and really fun. Anglers have to be on their game, accurate, and able to play fish smart in heavy flows where the trout has all the advantage.

I’m all about the dry fly fishing. If that makes be begoiuse or slightly elitist so be it. I’m under the impression that most anglers like dry fly eats and I have put a lot of time into figuring out how to make the upper Yakima river a dry fly fishery. Around 80% of the fish caught on my trips throughout the season end up being dry fly eats.

It’s all about perfect presentation. Multiple times, to entice these persnickety trout. So we slow the boat down in these heavy flows, work the right kinda dry fly water, and produce fish on top. It can be work, but it pays off damn near every time. And it’s not like we dont switch to other stuff when dries dont produce. But I always read the water for dry fly lines and presentations first.

These fish get shoved into some gnarly water at this flow. They adapt very quickly and efficiently to their environment and for 3-4 months of the year for generations of trout, these fish have adapted to the summer time conditions. It makes for an amazing summer time experience that is unlike any other time of the year here. Plus, to this day, I have not found a harder fighting fish in this current. These trout have some shoulders hen the flows are up. It’s a constant work out which is why these fish are so spicey.

We throw big bugs with heavy tippet, fight fish fast and smart, and get back to it after fast releases. Typically fish are landed and caught in under 2 minutes, and when you get chances at 20-40 a day it can get silly.

The upper is graduate school for anglers and guides. To produce fish you’ve gotta take your time and slowdown. Run and gun doesn’t work up here. Well it does, for that typical 8-10 fish day. Accurate casts, good row lines, lots of back strokes to keep that speed off, and giving anglers ample opportunity to present the fly to these tricky troots.

I love the summer fishing because once the boat hits the river it’s on. It doesnt stop, the flows are moving, and it’s time to get after it. It’s high energy, lots of action hopefully, and a whole lotta fun. I invite everyone to come out and see how you stack up against the Yakina Trout in the summer. It’s a good game to play and I love coaching anglers through it.

See ya riverside.

Tamarack

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Be Safe

Yesterday I was with clients and wr had a kayaker wreck on a log pile near us. It was a bad smack that upended the boat onto the jam. We pulled over and went up to help. Bruised and stunned but okay we helped the guy get over the jam safely and try him back on his way.

He did not have a life jacket on and if he had hit the jam sideways the results could have been much worse.

Please be safe, wear a life jacket, bring a whistle, tell people where and when you are floating, know your access points, and never go if you feel scared or nervous when looking at the water. That’s your body and mind telling you you’re not ready. It’s very high and very fast, inexperience can be fatal on the Yakima. Please be careful. I end up having to help or rescue half a dozen or more a summer.

Be safe. And have fun!

Tamarack